Building Blocks of the Future
Student Is Developing a New Sustainable Construction Material
When Marissa Hilliard joined the University of Idaho College of Art and Architecture, she knew she would combine analytical and creative thinking to work on real life projects. She didn’t expect she would be involved in creating a new sustainable construction material.
I never really considered creating a material itself before and how that material could be specifically designed to affect the experience of an individual in a certain community or environment. Marissa Hilliard
A team of researchers from U of I and Auburn University are exploring how to use timber waste materials to increase housing affordability and sustainability. Ultimately, they want to help mitigate climate change. Hilliard is part of the interdisciplinary team investigating how wood waste could be used in 3D printing technology for construction.
“Buildings are not just meant to hold things and people. There is much more than that in a well-designed building,” Hilliard, who is graduating in Spring 22, said. “But I never really considered creating a material itself before and how that material could be specifically designed to affect the experience of an individual in a certain community or environment.”
The team uses tiny wood fibers to create new lasting, sustainable and affordable building materials that are generated for a 3D printer. They are also investigating how to print various building assemblies to minimize the use of resources and maximize savings.
“This wood material’s advantage over other 3D printed materials used in construction, like cement or plastic, is that it is more environmentally friendly. We use wood waste like sawdust that wouldn’t be used otherwise,” Hilliard said.
“To be involved in a project like this – to help create a sustainable material that could be used to produce affordable housing – is an amazing learning opportunity,” Hilliard said. “There is also an intriguing potential to create a product for DYI projects. In the future, you might be able to rent a printer at Home Depot, buy a bucket of the material and print your new room. The potential of ease of access is very interesting to me.”
While there is still much research to be done to understand its full potential and implementation, Hilliard believes 3D printing wood waste could change the architecture field in the years to come.
Article by Maria Ortega, U of I Boise Marketing & Communications.
Photos by Melissa Hartley, Creative Services.
Published in March 2022.